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Public Television

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Public Television

"Public Service Broadcasting" redirects here. For the English musical duo, see Public Service Broadcasting (band).

Public broadcasting includes radio, television and other electronic media outlets whose primary mission is public service. Public broadcasters receive funding from diverse sources including license fees, individual contributions, public financing and commercial financing.[1]

Public broadcasting may be nationally or locally operated, depending on the country and the station. In some countries, public broadcasting is run by a single organization. Other countries have multiple public broadcasting organizations operating regionally or in different languages. Historically, public broadcasting was once the dominant or only form of broadcasting in many countries (with the notable exception of the United States of America). Commercial broadcasting now also exists in most of these countries; the number of countries with only public broadcasting declined substantially during the latter part of the 20th century.


Defining public broadcasting

The primary mission of public broadcasting that of public service, speaking to and engaging as a citizen.[1] The British model has been widely accepted as a universal definition.[2][3][4] The model embodies the following principles:

  • universal accessibility (geographic)
  • universal appeal (general tastes and interests)
  • particular attention to minorities
  • contribution to sense of national identity and community
  • distance from vested interests
  • direct funding and universality of payment
  • competition in good programming rather than numbers
  • guidelines that liberate rather than restrict programme-makers

While application of certain principles may be straightforward, as in the case of accessibility, some of the principles may be poorly defined or difficult to implement. In the context of a shifting national identity, the role of public broadcasting may be unclear. Likewise, the subjective nature of good programming may raise the question of individual or public taste.[3]

Within public broadcasting there are two different views regarding commercial activity. One is that public broadcasting is incompatible with commercial objectives. The other is that public broadcasting can and should compete in the marketplace with commercial broadcasters. This dichotomy is highlighted by the public service aspects of traditional commercial broadcasters.[3]

Public broadcasters in each jurisdiction may or may not be synonymous with government controlled broadcasters. In some countries, like the UK, public broadcasters are not sanctioned by government departments, and have independent means of funding and, hence enjoy editorial independence.


Public broadcasters may receive their funding from an obligatory television licence fee, individual contributions, government funding or commercial sources. Public broadcasters do not rely on advertising to the same degree as commercial broadcasters, or at all; this allows public broadcasters to transmit programmes that are not commercially viable to the mass market, such as public affairs shows, radio and television documentaries, and educational programmes.

One of the principles of public broadcasting is to provide coverage of interests for which there are missing or small markets. Public broadcasting attempts to supply topics of social benefit that are otherwise not be broadcast by commercial broadcasters. Typically, such underprovision is argued to exist when the benefits to viewers are relatively high in comparison to the benefits to advertisers from contacting viewers.[5] This frequently is the case in undeveloped countries that normally have low benefits to advertising.[6]

Cultural policy

Additionally, public broadcasting may facilitate the implementation of a cultural policy (an industrial policy and investment policy for culture). Some examples include:

  • The Canadian government is committed to official bilingualism (English and French). As a result, the public broadcaster, the CBC employs translators and journalists who speak both official languages and it encourages production of cross-cultural material. Quebec separatists argue that this is also a policy of cultural imperialism and assimilation.
  • In the UK, the BBC supports multiculturalism and diversity, in part by using on-screen commentators and hosts of different ethnic origins. There are also Welsh-language programmes.
  • In New Zealand, the public broadcasting system provides support to Maori (native New Zealander) broadcasting, with the stated intention of improving their opportunities, maintaining their cultural heritage and promoting their language.
  • In Australia, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is legally required to 'encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia' and 'broadcasting programs that contribute to a sense of national identity' with specific emphasis on regional and rural Australia'.[7] Furthermore, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) is intended to reflect the spirit and sense of multicultural richness and the unique international cultural values within the Australian society.

Vested interests

Public broadcasting, unless its independence is vigorously upheld, can become a tool of government.[8][9] Similarly, private networks can promote the policies of their owners and suppress other viewpoints, alleging it is in the public interest.[8] Conflicts are common: the state alleges that private broadcasters are attacking it in the interests of the owners, and controls them or takes them over.[8]


Implementation of public broadcasting around the world

The model, established in the 1920s, of the British Broadcasting Corporation – an organization widely trusted, even by citizens of the Axis Powers during World War II – was widely emulated throughout Europe, the British Empire, and later the Commonwealth. The public broadcasters in a number of countries are basically an application of the model used in Britain.

Modern public broadcasting is often a mixed commercial model. For example, the CBC has always relied on a subsidy from general revenues of the government, in addition to advertising revenue, to support its television service. This means they must compete with commercial broadcasting. Some argue that this dilutes their mandate as truly public broadcasters, who have no commercial bias to distort their presentation.

The rest of this section looks at some specific implementations of public broadcasting around the world.


Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, the Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) is the sole public service broadcaster. Although a government department under administrative hierarchy, it enjoys editorial independence. It operates seven radio channels, and produces television programmes and broadcast on commercial television channels, as these channels are required by law to provide time slot for RTHK television programmes.

RTHK would be assigned a digital terrestrial television channel within 2013 to 2015, when the new broadcasting building is completed in Tseung Kwan O.


In India, Prasar Bharati is India's public broadcaster. It is an autonomous corporation of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (India), Government of India and comprises the Doordarshan television network and All India Radio. Prasar Bharati was established on November 23, 1957, following a demand that the government owned broadcasters in India should be given autonomy like those in many other countries. The Parliament of India passed an Act to grant this autonomy in 1990, but it was not enacted until September 15, 1997.


In Japan, the main public broadcaster is the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). The broadcaster was set up in 1926 and was modelled on the British Broadcasting Company, the precursor to the British Broadcasting Corporation created in 1927. Much like the BBC, NHK is funded by a "receiving fee" by every Japanese household, with no commercial advertising and the maintenance of a position of strict political impartiality. However, rampant non-payment by a large fraction of households has led the receiving fee to become something of a political issue. NHK runs two national terrestrial TV stations (NHK General and NHK Educational) and two satellite only services (NHK BS1 and NHK BS Premium services). NHK also runs 3 national radio services and a number of international radio and television services, akin to the BBC World Service. NHK has also been an innovator in television, developing the world's first high definition television technology in 1964 and launching high definition services in Japan in 1981.


In Macau, Teledifusão de Macau TDM is the public service broadcasting company. The firm was established in January 1982 and was modelled on Rádio e Televisão de Portugal RTP. TDM has two independent editorial arms: the Chinese news channel and the Portuguese news channel, each of which may have different information sources, points of view, and priorities of news. TDM runs both television and radio services.


In Malaysia, the public broadcaster is the state-owned Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM). RTM was previously funded publicly through money obtained from television licensing, however it is currently state subsidised as television licences have been abolished.

At present, RTM operates 8 national, 16 state and 7 district radio stations as well as 2 national terrestrial television channels called TV1 and TV2. RTM has also done test transmissions on a new digital television channel called RTMi. Tests involving 2000 residential homes in the Klang Valley began in September 2006 and ended in March 2007.


Public Service Broadcasting in Nepal


In Pakistan, the public broadcasters are the state-owned Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC, )also known as Radio Pakistan and Pakistan Television. In the past Radio Pakistan was partly funded through money obtained from License fees. In 1999, Nawaz Sharif govt. abolished license fees for Radio Pakistan and also abolished its tax exempt status protected under PBC Act 1973. The license fees for Pakistan Television continued. The license fees collection for PTV was given to WAPDA during Musharraf government. Currently WAPDA collects Rs. 35 per house hold on electricity bills as PTV license fees. Television Broadcasting started in Pakistan with a small pilot TV Station established at Lahore Radio from where transmission was first beamed in Black & White with effect from 26 November 1964. Television centres were established in Dhaka, Karachi and Rawalpindi/Islamabad in 1967 and in Peshawar and Quetta in 1974. PTV has various channels transmitting throughout the world including PTV National, PTV World, PTV 2, PTV Global, PTV Bolan etc. Radio Pakistan has stations covering all the major cities, it covers 80% of the country serving 95.5 Million listeners. It has world service in eleven languages daily.


The Philippines' primary state television broadcaster is the People's Television Network (PTV). Created in 1974 as Government Television (GTV), PTV is no longer state-subsidised except for a one-time equity funding for capital outlay in 1992. Aside from PTV, the other public broadcaster is the Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), which the government has already put up for sale. The government no longer holds a controlling interest in the former state broadcaster, Radio Philippines Network (RPN).

The Philippine Broadcasting Service (PBS) is the country's sole state radio broadcaster. It was established in 1933 as KZFM by the American colonial Insular Government, and control of the radio station was passed to the Philippine Government after the country became independent in 1946.


In most countries in Europe, state broadcasters are funded through a mix of advertising and public finance, either through a licence fee or directly from the government.


Belgium has three networks, one for each linguistic community:

  • RTBF, French-language, with 4 TV channels (La Une, La Deux, La Trois and Arte Belgique) and 6 radios.
  • VRT, Dutch-language, with 3 TV channels and 10 radios.
  • BRF, German-language, with 1 TV channel and 2 radios.

Originally named INR – Institut national belge de radiodiffusion (Dutch: NIR – Belgisch Nationaal Instituut voor de Radio-omroep), the state-owned broadcasting organization was established by law on 18 June 1930. Television broadcasting from Brussels began in 1953, with two hours of programming each day. In 1960 the INR was subsumed into RTB (French: Radio-Télévision Belge) and BRT (Dutch: Belgische Radio- en Televisieomroep).

On 1 October 1945 INR-NIR began to broadcast some programs in German. In 1961 RTB-BRT began a German-language radio channel, broadcasting from Liège.

In 1977, following Belgian federalization and the establishment of separate language communities, the French-language section of RTB-BRT became RTBF (French: Radio-Télévision Belge de la Communauté française), German-language section became BRF (German: Belgischer Rundfunk) and Dutch-language stays BRT.

BRT was renamed in 1991 in BRTN (Dutch: Belgische Radio- en Televisieomroep Nederlandstalige Uitzendingen) and in 1998 into VRT (Dutch: Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie).


Croatian Radiotelevision (Croatian: Hrvatska radiotelevizija, HRT) is a Croatian public broadcasting company. It operates several radio and television channels, over a domestic transmitter network as well as satellite. As of 2002, 70% of HRT's funding comes from broadcast user fees with each house in Croatia required to pay 79 HRK, kuna, per month for a single television), with the remainder being made up from advertising.[10]

Czech Republic

Czech Television and Czech Radio are national public broadcasting companies in the Czech Republic. Czech Television broadcasts from three studios in Prague, Brno and Ostrava and operates six TV channels ČT1, ČT2, ČT24, ČTSport, ČT :D and ČT Art. Czech television is funded through monthly fee 135 CZK which every household has to pay. Since October 2011 advertising on Czech TV was restricted from four to two channels, namely ČT2 and ČTSport.[11] Czech Radio broadcasts four nationwide stations Radiožurnál, Dvojka, Vltava and Plus, several regional and specialised digital stations. Czech Radio 7 - Radio Prague broadcasts abroad in six languages. Czech Radio is funded throung monthly fee 45 CZK. In the Czech Republic, there is also Czech News Agency (ČTK), a public corporation established by law. The state is not responsible for any ČTK obligations and ČTK is not responsible for any state obligations.


DR is the national public service broadcaster. The organization was founded in 1925 on principles similar to those of the BBC in the United Kingdom. Danmarks Radio runs six nationwide television channels and a long lists of radio channels. Financing comes from yearly license fees, that everyone who owns either a television set, a radio, a computer with internet access or a mobile phone, that can access the internet, has to pay.


ERR (Estonian Public Broadcasting) organizes the public radio and television stations of Estonia. ETV (Estonian Television), the public television station, made its first broadcast in 1955, and together with its sister channel ETV2 has ca. 20% audience share.

Faroe Islands

Kringvarp Føroya is the organization in Faroe Islands with public service obligations. Formed in 1957 as a radio broadcaster Útvarp Føroya. Merged with Sjónvarp Føroya TV station on 1 January 2007 to form Kringvarp Føroya. Funded by license fees.


Following World War II, the RTF (Radiodiffusion-télévision française - French television and radio broadcasting) was created to operate the only two channels of television in France. The RTF was transformed into ORTF (Office de radiodiffusion-télévision française - French television and radio diffusion office), a more independent structure, in 1964. The ORTF saw the birth of a third channel in 1972, two years before the dissolution of the structure in 1974. From this date to 2000, each channel had its own direction structure. The first channel (TF1) was sold to the private sector in 1987 (in these years, the channel with the most audience was the other public channel Antenne 2). In 1986 a French/German public channel was created, ARTE, originally broadcast on cable and satellite, the fall of the private channel La Cinq freed some frequencies that it had used each day after 19:00. In 1994 a new public channel, La cinquième was created to use the remaining time on the same frequencies. La cinquieme and ARTE subsequently shared the same channels with the exception of satellite, cable, and internet channels where both could be broadcast all day long. In 2000 all the public channels were united into one structure, France Télévisions.


Following World War II, when regional broadcasters had been merged into one national network by the Nazis to create a powerful means of propaganda, the Allies insisted on a de-centralised, independent structure for German public broadcasting and created regional public broadcasting agencies that, by and large, still exist today.

  • NDR (Northern Germany), split from former NWDR
  • WDR (North Rhine-Westphalia), split from former NWDR
  • RBB (Berlin and vicinity), merged from SFB and ORB
  • SWR (Germany's south west), merged from SDR and SWF
  • BR (Bavaria)
  • MDR (Germany's south east), established in 1991
  • and the smaller hr (Hesse), SR (Saar) and RB (Land Bremen)

In addition to these nine regional radio and TV broadcasters, which cooperate within ARD, a second national television service—actually called Second German Television (German: Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, ZDF)—was later created in 1961 and a national radio service with two networks (Deutschlandradio) emerged from the remains of Cold War propaganda stations in 1994. All services are mainly financed through license fees paid by every household and are governed by councils of representatives of the "societally relevant groups". Public TV and radio stations spend about 60% of the ~10 Bil. € spent altogether for broadcasting in Germany per year, making it the most expensive public broadcasting system in the world.

The Hans-Bredow-Institut, or Hans-Bredow-Institute for Media Research at the University of Hamburg (HBI) is an independent non-profit foundation with the mission on media research on public communication, particularly for radio and television broadcasting (including public service media providers) and other electronic media, in an interdisciplinary fashion.[12] [13] [14]

In Germany also foreign public broadcasters exist. These are AFN for US-military staff in Germany, BFBS for British military staff, Voice of Russia, RFE and Radio Liberty.


Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV) (English: 'The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service') is Iceland's national public-service broadcasting organization. RÚV began radio broadcasting in 1930 and its first television transmissions were made in 1966. In both cases coverage quickly reached nearly every household in Iceland. RÚV is funded by a television licence fee collected from every income tax payer, as well as advertising revenue. RÚV has been a full active member of the European Broadcasting Union since 1956.

RÚV – which by the terms of its charter is obliged to "promote the Icelandic language, Icelandic history, and Iceland's cultural heritage" and "honour basic democratic rules, human rights, and the freedom of speech and opinion"[15] – carries a substantial amount of arts, media, and current affairs programming, in addition to which it also supplies general entertainment in the form of feature films and such internationally popular television drama series as Lost and Desperate Housewives. RÚV's lineup also includes sports coverage, documentaries, domestically produced entertainment shows, and children's programming.


In Ireland, a system of TV licencing and advertising is used to fund the public service broadcaster RTÉ. Raidió Teilifís Éireann offers a range of free to air services on television and Radio. The Sound and Vision Fund is operated by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, this fund receives 5% of the licence fee. The fund is used to assist broadcasters to commission public service broadcast programming. It is open to all independent producers provided they get a free to air or community broadcaster's backing, including TV3, Today FM, BBC Northern Ireland, RTÉ, Channel 4, UTV etc. An offshoot of RTÉ, TG4 is an independent Irish language broadcaster that is funded by the government through subsidy, and through advertising revenue.


The Italian national broadcasting company is RAI - Radiotelevisione Italiana, born as URI in 1924. RAI transmits on digital television on fifteen channels: Rai 1, Rai 2, Rai 3, Rai 4, Rai 5, Rai News 24, Rai Movie, Rai Premium, Rai Sport 1, Rai Sport 2, Rai Storia, Rai Gulp, Rai YoYo, Rai Scuola and Rai HD. RAI also broadcasts via satellite and is involved in radio, publishing and cinema. RAI has the largest audience share (45%) of any Italian television network. Proceeds derive from a periodical standing charge and from advertising. The main competitors of RAI are Mediaset, the biggest national private broadcaster, divided in three channels, and La7, owned by Telecom Italia.


RTCG (Radio Television of Montenegro) is the public broadcaster in Montenegro.


In the Netherlands a different system is used from most other countries. Public-broadcasting associations are allocated money and time to broadcast their programmes on the publicly owned television and radio channels. The time and money is allocated in proportion to their membership numbers. The system is intended to reflect the diversity of all the groups composing the nation.


Main article: Polish Public Broadcasting

The public broadcasters are Telewizja Polska (TVP) television and Polskie Radio. TVP operates three main channels: TVP 1, TVP 2 and TVP Regionalna. It also broadcasts several digital channels (including TVP 1, TVP1 HD, TVP 2, TVP2 HD, TVP Info, TVP Kultura, TVP Historia, TVP HD, TVP Polonia, TVP Sport, TVP Seriale) via satellite and digital terrestrial television system, and 16 regional affiliates (known as TVP Regionalna - regional channels cooperate when creating most of materials). TVP also runs also services with news, a video streaming (video on demand) service as well as live streaming of all its channels. Polskie Radio operates four nationwide radio channels (which are also available via the broadcaster's website). There are also 17 state-owned radio stations broadcasting in particular regions. TVP and Polish Radio are funded from several sources: state funding, advertising, obligatory tax on all TV and radio receivers, and money from authors/copyright associations. The public broadcasters offer a mix of commercial shows and programmes they are, by law, required to broadcast (i.e. non-commercial, niche programmes; programmes for children; programmes promoting different points of view and diversity; programmes for different religious and national groups; live coverage of the parliament's session on its dedicated channel: TVP Parlament; etc.). It has to be politically neutral, although in the past there have been cases of political pressure on TVP and Polskie Radio from the governing party. Now, after some changes in the law, it's much harder for any political party to influence the public broadcasters. There is an ongoing debate in Poland on whether the semi-commercial character of TVP and PR should be kept or changed. Many people fear that making them into totally non-commercial broadcasters would result in the licence fee payable by households being increased, and fewer people being interested in programmes they offer; others say that TVP in particular is too profit-driven and should concentrate on programming that benefits the society. Some say that state contributions should be programme-based, rather than channel/broadcaster-based, so as all the broadcasters can get them (in this scenario TVP would be privatised and equal to the private TV channels).

The Nordic countries

National public broadcasters in The Nordic countries were modelled after the BBC and established a decade later: Radioordningen (now DR) in Denmark, Kringkastingselskapet (now NRK) in Norway, and Radiotjänst (now Sveriges Radio and Sveriges Television) in Sweden (all in 1925), and YLE in Finland in 1926. All four are funded from television licence fees costing (in 2007) around €230 (US$300) per household per year.


Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) is the national public broadcaster in Serbia. It operates a total of five television channels (RTS1, RTS2, RTS Digital, RTS HD and RTS SAT) and five radio stations (Radio Belgrade 1, Radio Belgrade 2, Radio Belgrade 3, Radio Belgrade 202 and Stereorama). RTS is primarily funded through public television licence fees bundled with electricity bills paid monthly, as well as advertising.[16]


In Spain, being a highly decentralised country, two public broadcasting systems coexist: a national broadcasting television, Radio y Televisión Española (RTVE), that can be watched all around Spain, and many autonomic TV channels, only broadcast within their respective Autonomous Community. Televisión Española was founded in 1956, during Franco's dictatorship. It broadcasts two different TV-channels: TVE1 (a.k.a. La Primera or La uno), that is a wide-range audience general channel; and TVE2, (a.k.a. La dos), that tends to offer cultural programation, as well as sport competitions. Till 2008, RTVE was funded both from public sources and private advertising; however, the Spanish government has recently decreed that, starting in September 2009, RTVE's channels shall be funded with taxpayer's money and with private founding raised from the rest of Spain's private TV stations, thus removing advertising from the broadcaster. A TV licence fee has been suggested, but with little popular success.

Moreover, each of the autonomous communities of Spain have their own public broadcaster, usually consisting in either one or two public channels that tend to reproduce the model set up by Televisión Española: a general channel and a more cultural related one. In the Autonomous Communities that have their own official language besides Spanish, those channels may broadcast not in Spanish, but in the other co-official language. For example, this occurs in Catalonia, where Televisió de Catalunya broadcasts mainly in Catalan. In the Basque Country, Euskal Telebista (ETB) has three channels, two of which broadcast only in basque (ETB 1 and ETB 3), whereas the other (ETB 2) broadcasts in Spanish. In Galicia, the Television de Galicia and the G2. All the autonomic networks are publicly founded, and also admit private advertising.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has a strong tradition of public service broadcasting. In addition to the BBC, established in 1922, there is also Channel 4, a commercial public service broadcaster, and S4C, a Welsh-language broadcaster in Wales. Furthermore, the two commercial analogue broadcasters ITV and Channel 5 also have significant public service obligations imposed as part of their licence to broadcast.

In the UK there are also small community broadcasters. There are now 228 stations with FM broadcast licences (licensed by Ofcom). Community radio stations typically cover a small geographical area with a coverage radius of up to 5 km and run on a not-for-profit basis. They can cater for whole communities or for different areas of interest – such as a particular ethnic group, age group or interest group. Community radio stations reflect a diverse mix of cultures and interests. For example, you can listen to stations catering to urban or experimental music, while others are aimed at younger people, religious communities or the Armed Forces and their families.

North America


In Canada, the main public broadcaster is the national Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which operates two television networks (CBC Television and Télévision de Radio-Canada), four radio networks (CBC Radio One, CBC Radio Two, Première Chaîne and Espace musique) and a number of cable television channel including two 24-hour news channels (CBC News Network and RDI) in both of Canada's official languages. CBC's television operations are funded in part by advertisements, in addition to tax dollars from the federal government. However, the cable channels are commercial entities owned and operated by the CBC and do not receive any direct public funds, however, they do benefit from synergies with resources from the other CBC operations. In recent years, the CBC was frequently battered by budget cuts and labour disputes.

In addition, several provinces operate public broadcasters; these are not CBC subentities, but distinct networks in their own right. These include the English-language TVOntario and the French-language TFO in Ontario, Télé-Québec in Quebec, public radio station CKUA in Alberta, and Knowledge in British Columbia. Some of the provincial broadcasters operate through conventional transmitters, while others are cable-only channels.

Canada is also home to a number of former public broadcasting entities that have gone private. CTV Two Alberta, which is licensed as an educational television station in Alberta, was once a public broadcaster, owned by the Alberta government, until the channel was sold to CHUM Limited in 1995. Since that time, although it is still licensed as an educational station, it broadcasts primarily entertainment programming favoured by advertisers and viewers. CJRT-FM in Toronto also operated as a public government-owned radio station for many years; while no longer funded by the provincial government, it still solicits most of its budget from listener and corporate donations and is permitted to air only a very small amount of commercial advertising. One television station, CFTU in Montreal, operates as an educational station owned by a private not-for-profit consortium of educational institutions in the province of Quebec called CANAL. Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN) was once a cable-only educational and cultural public broadcaster owned by the Saskatchewan government until it was sold to Bluepoint Investment Corporation in 2010.

Some local community stations also operate non-commercially with funding from corporate and individual donors. In addition, cable companies are required to produce a local community channel in each licensed market. Such channels have traditionally aired community talk shows, city council meetings and other locally oriented programming, although it is becoming increasingly common for them to adopt the format and branding of a local news channel.

Canada also has a large number of campus radio and community radio stations.

United States

Early public stations were operated by state colleges and universities, and were often run as part of the schools' cooperative extension services. Stations in this era were internally funded, and did not rely on listener contributions to operate; some accepted advertising. Networks such as Iowa, South Dakota, and Wisconsin Public Radio began in this way.

The concept of a "non-commercial, educational" station per se does not show up in U.S. law until the 1940s, when the FM band was moved to its present location; the part of the band between 88.1 and 91.9 MHz is reserved for such stations, though they are not limited to those frequencies. For example, WFIU-Bloomington, Ind. has its FM frequency at 103.7 MHz. Houston's KUHT was the nation's first public television station, and signed on the air in 25 May 1953 from the campus of the University of Houston.[17] This phenomenon continued in other big cities in the 1950s; in rural areas, it was not uncommon for colleges to operate commercial stations instead (e.g., the University of Missouri's KOMU-TV, an NBC affiliate).

In the United States, other than a few direct services, public broadcasting is almost entirely decentralized and is not government operated, but does receive some government support. Some of the funding comes from community support to hundreds of public radio and public television stations, each of which is an individual entity licensed to one of several different non-profit organizations, municipal or state governments, or universities. Sources of funding also include on-air and online pledge drives and the sale of underwriting "spots" (typically 15–30 seconds) to sponsors. Public radio and television stations often produce their own programs as well as purchase additional programming from national producers and program distributors such as National Public Radio (NPR), Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Public Radio International (PRI), American Public Television (APT), American Public Media (APM), and Public Radio Exchange (PRX). U.S. federal government support for public radio and television is filtered through a separate organization, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Public broadcasting is sometimes also referred to as public media, in an effort to capture the expansion of public broadcasting content from radio and television into digital technologies, in particular the web and mobile platforms. While some consider public media to be analogous to public broadcasting,[18] others use the term more broadly to include all noncommercial media.[19]

Individual stations and programs rely on highly varied proportions of funding. Program-by-program funding creates the potential for conflict-of-interest situations, which must be weighed program by program under standards such as the guidelines established by PBS.[20] Donations are widely dispersed to stations and producers, giving the system a resilience and broad base of support but diffusing authority and impeding decisive change and priority-setting.[21]


In the United States, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) (formerly National Educational Television) television network operates on a largely viewer-supported basis (see telethon), with commercial sponsors of specific programs. Over time, sponsorship announcements ("underwriting") have slowly transformed into something resembling regular (commercial) TV advertisements, though they are usually shorter and have a more muted tone than what normally appears on commercial and cable TV, and many organizations still only receive a short thanks for their contributions. Underwriting may only issue declarative statements (including slogans) and may not include "calls to action" (i.e. the station cannot give out prices, comparative statements, or anything that would persuade the listener to patronize the sponsor). Most communities also have Public-access television channels on local cable television systems, which are generally paid for by Cable television franchise fees and sometimes supported in part through citizens donations.

The U.S. government produces two channels for domestic citizen consumption: NASA TV, a suite of channels covering the country's space program and a collection of science education programs, and the Pentagon Channel, which distributes news regarding the country's military operations. Both are distributed solely by satellite and Internet and thus do not have the extensive reach of other countries' national broadcasters.

US public broadcasting for television has, from the late 1960s onward, dealt with severe criticism from conservative politicians and think-tanks, which allege that its programming has a leftist bias.


A public radio network, PRSS). Around these distributed programs, stations fill in varying amounts of local and other programming. A number of public stations are completely independent of these programming services, producing all or most of their content themselves.

Public radio stations in the U.S. tend to broadcast a mixture of news and talk radio programming along with some arts, culture, and music. Some of the larger operations split off these formats into separate stations or networks. Public radio's music stations are probably best known for playing classical music, although other formats have been used, including the time-honored "eclectic" music format that is rather freeform in nature common among college radio stations; jazz is another relatively common, but declining, public radio programming staple.

The U.S. government operates some limited direct broadcasting services, but all are either highly specialized (and, since the dawn of the millennium, automated) information services (WWV/WWVH time service, NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards) or targeted at foreign audiences (e.g. Voice of America). From 1948 to 2013, foreign-targeted broadcasts, many of which were intended as propaganda, were barred from U.S. audiences because of the Smith–Mundt Act, a restriction that has since been lifted. While NOAA Weather Radio has individual terrestrial repeaters across the United States (albeit on a special band reserved for such broadcasts), WWV, VOA and others operate from single shortwave facilities; none of these services can be heard on the AM or FM bands most common on U.S. radio.

Local stations derive some of the funding for their operations through regular pledge drives seeking individual and corporate donations, and corporate underwriting. Some stations also derive a portion of their funding from federal, state and local governments and government-funded colleges and universities (in addition to receiving free use of the public radio spectrum). The local stations then contract with program distributors and also provide some programming themselves. NPR produces its own programming. PBS, by contrast, does not create its own content. NPR also receives some direct funding from private donors, foundations, and from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Although most "public" radio stations are noncommercial, not all noncommercial stations are public. Community radio stations may have some independently produced programs in common with their public counterparts but, because they do not rely on government subsidy of any sort, cannot be considered public, even in the American sense of the term.



In Australia, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is owned by the Australian Government and is 100% taxpayer funded. The multicultural Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), another public broadcaster, now accepts limited sponsorship and advertising.

In addition, there is a large Australian community radio sector, funded in part by Federal grants via the Community Broadcasting Foundation, but largely sustained via subscriptions, donations and business sponsorship. As of June 2005, there were 442 fully licensed community radio stations (including remote Indigenous services) and a number of community television stations (most operating as Channel 31 despite being unrelated across different states). They are organised similarly to PBS and NPR stations in the US, and take on the role that Public access television stations have in the US.

New Zealand

In New Zealand all broadcasters are given a small slice of public broadcasting responsibility, because of the state-funded agency NZ On Air. This is because of NZ On Air's requirement for public-service programmes across all channels and stations, instead of being put into one single network. The former public broadcaster BCNZ (formerly NZBC - New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation) was broken up into separate state-owned corporations, Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and Radio New Zealand (RNZ). While RNZ remains commercial-free, about 90% of funding for TVNZ comes from selling advertising during programmes on their two stations.[22] TVNZ continues to be a public broadcaster; however like CBC Television in Canada it is essentially a fully commercial network in continuous ratings battles with other stations, which continues to be a controversial issue within New Zealand. With the shutdown of TVNZ 7, the only fully non-commercial public-service network in New Zealand is Radio New Zealand.

Programmes offered on TVNZ include popular US-produced shows like Desperate Housewives, ER, Lost, Cold Case, and Dancing with the Stars. TVNZ operates five stations: TV ONE, TV2, TVNZ U, TVNZ Heartland and TVNZ Kidzone24 and hold majority ratings in the country. Because of its high ratings some of the most expensive advertising slots in the country are on TV ONE and TV2. Funding for TVNZ 7 by the New Zealand government was not renewed past 30 June 2012, ceasing transmission on the same date.[23]

TVONE continues to keep TVNZ a public broadcaster, thanks to its morning television news, and minority focused programmes which mostly air on Sunday mornings. On other occasions public TV airs past the late news at 10:30pm. On almost all other occasions TVONE's programmes are entirely commercially funded.

The Government owns a network of reserved channels for non-commercial regional access broadcasting, and some of them have been awarded to local community trusts to provide public service and access television. Examples are Triangle TV and its Stratos division in Auckland and Wellington; and Channel 7 in Taranaki. However, Stratos was closed down in late 2011 due to financial pressures, and its owners re-launched it as The Face after signing a deal with SKY TV the following year.[24] Other current local networks can be included as public broadcasters, such as Cue TV. However, like TVNZ Heartland and Kidzone24 — which previously had content on TVNZ 6 & 7 — concerns have been raised over the increasing amount of public service content being available only behind pay TV paywalls.[24][25]

Aside from television, New Zealand has a rich public radio culture, Radio New Zealand being the main provider, with a varied network (Radio New Zealand National) and a classical musical network (Radio New Zealand Concert). RNZ also provides the Pacific with its Radio New Zealand International. Aside from RNZ almost all of New Zealand's 16 regions has an "access radio" network. All these networks are commercial-free and are committed to their communities.

South America


State presence in television had a strong history, not in the way of European style public service radio or television. The private sector has taken an active role in the development of television in Buenos Aires. In opposition, state broadcasters tend to be federal and technical innovative, such as the Argentinian Canal 7, the first 60 years old national TV station.


The closest model to the British BBC is that of Chile's Televisión Nacional, an open channel serving the entire country (including Easter Island and Antarctica bases). Televisión Nacional, popularly known as channel 7 because of its Santiago frequency, is governed by a seven-member board appointed by the Chilean Senate. It is meant to be independent of political pressures, although accusations of bias have been made, especially during election campaigns.


Recently, under the initiative of the Venezuelan government of president Hugo Chávez, and with the sponsorship of the governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua, the news and documentary network teleSUR was created with the intended to be an instrument toward the "concretizing of the Bolivarian idea" through the integration of America, and as a counterweight to what the governments that funds it consider a "distorted view of Latin American reality by privately run networks that broadcast to the region".[26] There is an ongoing debate on whether teleSUR will be able become a neutral and fair news channel able to counter the huge influence of global media outlets, or whether it will end up as a propaganda tool of the Venezuelan government, which owns a 51 percent share of said channel.[27]

List of public broadcasters

Africa and Middle East


Asian Legends

Brunei Darussalam

Hong Kong (China) SAR

  • Radio Television Hong Kong (香港電台|RTHK)


Macau (China) SAR

  • Teledifusão de Macau (澳門廣播電視股份有限公司 "澳廣視"|TDM) - Macau



South Korea





East Timor

New Zealand

  • TVNZ - 6 channels, commercial television and public television.
NZ Local Networks (can be included)
  • 45 South TV
  • Channel North Television
  • Access Taranaki 104.4FM
  • Access Manawatu 999AM
  • Access Wellington 783AM
  • Mainland TV Nelson

Oceania International Services

Pacific Islands

North America


United States

South America







Costa Rica





  • TNU - Televisión Nacional de Uruguay
  • S.O.D.R.E - Servicio Official Radioletrico (en desuso)
  • Radio Clasica
  • Radio Uruguay
  • Radio Nacional



  • teleSUR — Reaches the entire continent, Europe and Northern Africa. Owned by La Nueva Televisora del Sur, a public company sponsored by several American countries.

See also



External links

  • The 100th Anniversary of Public Broadcasting
  • Public Broadcasting Map
  • Public Radio Map (in portuguese)
  • ARTICLE 19
  • AIR, the Association for Independents in Radio
  • , the newspaper about public TV and radio in the United States
  • Public Radio Exchange, non-profit distribution, peer review and licensing
  • Public Radio Fan is a listing of public radio programs and stations worldwide.
  • Radio College, Internet Resources for Radio Journalists and Producers
  • Transom, A Showcase and Workshop for New Public Radio
  • ThoughtCast.
  • Comparative Advantage - Some Considerations Regarding the Future of Public Media.
  • Access to the Airwaves: Principles on Freedom of Expression and Broadcast Regulation
  • The Association of Public Television Stations
  • The Public Radio Program Directors Association
  • Ray Fitzwalter on public service broadcasting in Britain London Frontline Club, May 2008.
  • PSB-Digital: Research project about the adaptation of Public Service Broadcasting to new technologies.
  • The Public Polish Radio Program Directors Association

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